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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Herbalism: Analgesic Healing Salve

Kara's been healing up well, according to the Dr, from her surgery but one thing that is proving to be a real problem is the searing, electrical pain that accompanies nerve healing. Unlike muscle, bone or skin tissues, nerve tissue heals very slowly and can only successfully regenerate for the first 18 months after an injury ... after which time, there will be no new regrowth of damage. It has only been 5 months since she went under the knife, which means that her nervous structures are well underway in their efforts to heal up as much as they can before their time runs out. 

Being that her surgery restructured her whole pelvic floor (an area understandably nerve and sensation rich in men and women) as each healing nerve tries to regenerate itself it is accompanied with the most excruciating pain imaginable (if you've ever had neuralgia or sciatica you'll be able to empathize, only imagine the pain beginning in the vaginal region of the internal pelvis and then shooting down the whole leg). She is a trooper ... despite the fact that she is in pain a lot ... and that some of those pains are enough to have her clutching a nearby person or counter so she doesn't hit the floor ... she hardly complains at all. The Dr has prescribed her a fairly powerful pain killer, but nerve pain is a tricky thing and the pills often don't do much for her.

Still, no point in suffering needlessly if there's something that can be done. I recently managed to get a stock of Lemon Balm in; a plant which, among it's other wonderful properties, has a talent for treating nerve pain and is commonly used in salves and liniments to be used by people with neuralgia and other nerve based pain. 

I'm taking the recipe that I taught Kaylee while I was up there Thursday/Friday and altering it a bit to add an analgesic component to what is already a wonderful anti-bacterial skin healing salve.

The ingredients are:
7 grams each of dried Calendula, Comfrey, Lemon Balm, Plantain, and St. John's Wort
2 cups of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
33 grams pure Beeswax (note: if bee products are an allergy issue, use Soy Wax instead)
3 drops each container of Neroli, Nightqueen and Turkish Rose essential oils.

You also need a Bain-Marie pot setup, a wooden spoon, measuring cup(s), and jars to pour the end result into.

This is a Bain-Marie. A larger, water filled pot sits on the
heating element while a smaller pot rests within it, in contact
with the water. As the water in the bottom heats,
that is transferred to the contents of the smaller pot.
It prevents scalding/burning of the contents of the smaller pot.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Beeswax.

Measuring out the herbs.

Olive oil and herbs gradually heating in the Bain-Marie.

Do all your measuring and pour the olive oil into the small pot, add the herbs and then set the stove temperature to medium. Keep an eye on it, stirring the mixture occasionally with a wooden spoon, to ensure that the water in the bottom pot does not overboil the sides. If it begins a slow boil, that is fine .. but you do not want water leaping up out of the pot to splash into your salve mixture or burning you. If it seems to be getting too enthusiastic, turn the heat down a little until it's back under control.

Let the herbs and olive oil simmer for around an hour, until the herbs within the smaller pot are well saturated with the oil and the Calendula has lost that bright orange-y colour. Remove from heat and strain, being careful as the oil in the mixture is very hot. It is worthwhile to allow the oil mixture to cool a while before you try to wring out the herbs. Wash and dry the small pot and put it back in the water of the larger one.

About 1/2 way done ... the Calendula is starting to lose its
bright golden-orange colour.

Ready for straining

A peek inside the bag

Once you have the herbs well wrung out, you can compost the remains. Of the oil that is left, you want to carefully measure out 1 cup's worth for the salve ... the rest (if you have any overage) can be jarred, refrigerated, and used as a liniment. Take that cupful of heat infused oil back to the stove and set it within reach before putting the beeswax (soy wax) into the top pot of the Bain-Marie and allow it to melt slowly and fully before pouring in the cupful of infused oil. 

Allow the contents of the top pot to heat back up to fully liquid; the olive oil will cause the beeswax to solidify a little as it is poured in due to the temperature differences between the two components. Stir to mix the oil and the melted wax thoroughly and then pour into the waiting jars. 

Essential oils added to the jars while the
infused oil waits for the Beeswax to have melted.

Beeswax in to melt.

After adding the infused oil.

Cooling jars about to be capped,

Allow to cool and then cap ... making sure to clearly label and date the jars. As I have mentioned before, it is easy to remember what is what when you only have one or two things sitting around but, when you start making your own remedies, they tend to accumulate quickly and the contents of one jar can look identical to the contents of another leading to much confusion unless properly labelled.

Completed salve ready for use.

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